On senior night at Clarkson, it was the Harvard men’s hockey team’s freshmen that stole the show.
Rookie forwards Greg Gozzo and Kyle Criscuolo each had two goals, classmate Brayden Jaw had one score, freshmen Brian Hart and Jimmy Vesey both had two assists, and fellow newcomer Peter Traber made 29 saves to spark the Crimson to a 6-2 win over Clarkson.
Though Harvard (8-16-3, 5-13-2 ECAC) has struggled throughout the season and seems all but destined to finish last in the conference for the first time in ECAC history, the victory over the Golden Knights (9-16-7, 8-9-3) points towards a brighter future ahead for a squad that has struggled of late to turn highly-regarded recruiting classes into wins.
It was also a night Gozzo and Jaw will never forget, as each recorded his first career tally in the contest.
“I thought it was a really good team effort,” Traber said. “It was very good for our class.... It was good for [Gozzo] to get his first goal, and Brayden too. Both were very nice first goals, so it was nice to see.”
Clarkson got on the board first just 5:23 into the contest when Ben Sexton scored on the power play after his shot bounced off of a Harvard defender’s skate.
But two minutes later, following a tripping penalty on the Golden Knights’ Alex Boak, Harvard got its own man-up opportunity, and the Crimson took advantage. Vesey sent a cross-ice pass inside to Hart, and Clarkson goaltender Greg Lewis slid over to the right side of the net in anticipation of a Hart shot. But the rookie instead sent the puck to Criscuolo on the left side, giving the forward an open look from which to put it home.
It was just the 13th man-up goal of the season for Harvard, which is third worst in the nation in power-play percentage. The Crimson led the country in that category a year ago.
“[Vesey] threw a nice pass through their defenders to Brian Hart on the goal line, and Hart found me back-door wide open,” Criscuolo said. “It was a great play by those guys, and it was good to get a power-play goal, because we were pretty due for one.”
Just over a minute later, the two freshmen were back at it again when Criscuolo took a pass inside from Hart, attacked the net head-on, and fired a shot past Lewis to put Harvard ahead before finishing with a big fist pump.
“It was a two-on-one,” Criscuolo said. “[Marshall] Everson kind of drove his defender back and gave me a lane to shoot. I was just trying to get it on net and luckily I beat [Lewis] glove side.”
With just 24 seconds remaining in the period, Gozzo took a pass from assistant captain forward Alex Fallstrom and put Harvard up, 3-1, with the first of his two goals.
“We just wanted to get on the board and start attacking their D because we knew they could turn some pucks over,” Criscuolo said. “Once we started getting pucks to the net, we realized their goalie was having an off night.”
Clarkson outshot the Crimson, 15-3, in the second period. Traber held his ground until there was just 1:29 remaining in the frame, when, following a Crimson turnover, Simon Bessette was able to fire a shot past him to cut Harvard’s lead to one.
But Harvard put the contest away in the final frame. Senior forward Connor Morrison made it a 4-2 game at the 6:41 mark when he took a long pass from sophomore Tommy O’Regan, beat his defender, and fired a shot off the far post that deflected into the net.